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UPDATE: Health coalition questions Ford government’s boost to mental health spending

Posted: May 6, 2019

The Ontario government has announced an additional $174 million a year for mental health care, however, health advocates are accusing the Tories of juking the numbers.

“It’s a complicated issue. It’s not one we can solve overnight,” said Christine Elliott at a Canadian Mental Health Association community centre in Toronto. “This is not a challenge that any one ministry can handle alone — I want to assure Ontarians that we are taking a multi-ministerial approach when it comes to solving Ontario’s mental health system challenges.”

While there will be announcements all this week as the province celebrates Mental Health and Children’s Mental Health Week, Monday’s announcement will involve cooperation from at least three other ministries — education, municipal affairs and housing, and community safety and correctional services.

The PC government said of the funding announced, $30 million will help support child and youth mental health programs in the community, and another $27 million will go to mental health programs in schools.

“There are going to be mental health workers in secondary schools. We know there is an acute need there,” said Elliott, adding there will be new mental health programs for students.

“These investments are part of our government’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion over the next 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy,” said Elliott. “Together, we will create a connected system of care with comprehensive wrap-around services to ensure that every Ontarian is fully supported in their journey toward mental wellness.”

However, the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) said Monday’s announcement appears to a “re-announcement” of funding that was already slated to be used for mental health care.

“The reported grand total of funding over 10 years… has not changed. The Ford government is saying that federal and provincial funding will equal $3.8 billion over 10 years. This is what they have been saying since last summer and it hasn’t gone up by $174 million. So it appears to be the same, which makes this appear to be a re-announcement of the same money that was announced before,” the OHC said in a statement.

The federal and provincial governments have committed to spending a total of $3.8 billion over the next 10 years for comprehensive mental health strategy ($1.9 billion from the provincial government to match the $1.9 billion coming from the federal government). However, the OHC said this is a significant cut to what was initially planned by the previous Liberal government.  In the 2018 Ontario budget, the Liberal government passed an increase for mental health funding in an amount totalling $2.1 billion over four years. This past summer, the newly elected PC government reduced that to the $1.9 billion over ten years, which results in $330 million less per year for mental health funding.

“The dishonesty of the Ford government is a danger to our democracy,” the OHC said.

Monday’s funding announcement comes after 19 consultations with organizations that help those with mental health and addiction challenges, hospitals, those living with mental illness, and schools.

-With files from Adelle Loiselle

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